THE 10th annual NZCT AIMS Games opened in dazzling style at ASB Arena last night.
The excitement was palpable as the opening ceremony kicked off with a line-up of fabulous entertainment from youth rock band RPM, Otumoetai Intermediate's kapa haka group, and Tauranga Intermediate Boys' Choir, followed by a rousing national anthem assisted by Fletcher Oxford.
This year's Games have attracted more than 6500 intermediate-aged athletes from 193 schools.
That includes seven teams from Australia and one from Rarotonga, who will be taking part in 16 different sports over the next week.
It was a magical atmosphere as thousands of competitors, coaches, families, sponsors and guests packed the auditorium.
Under the direction of master of ceremonies Greg Cummings the arena resounded with loud cheers and whistles as each new performer and speaker took to the stage.
A massive cheer went up when New Zealand's basketball "royalty" and guest speaker Dillon Boucher took to the stage and shared his recipe for achieving success at the elite level.
The former Breakers star and Tall Blacks basketballer said: "Even at your guys' age you have a huge opportunity to do something really special this week. You all have the potential to make it to the top of your chosen sport or anything else you set your mind to.
"Believe it or not some people in this room are already the next Tall Blacks, and future All Blacks ... But nothing comes easy in this life, and if you want to be best at anything you have to be prepared to work harder than anyone else, like I did."
Otumoetai Intermediate netballers Immy Heslop, 13, and Phoebe Adler, 12, were buzzing.
Ms Heslop said she competed at last year's AIMS Games in an invitation team.
"We didn't do so great last time but this year we have been doing a lot more training, and we're hoping to do far better.
Otumoetai Intermediate's team manager Craig Nicholson said the girls' netball team have two games a day ahead of them.
"It will be very tough, and very competitive, especially when they play Whakatane Intermediate.
Competitions began on Saturday, with Otumoetai School snatching three gold medals and four silver medals in the cross-country and finish on Friday.